Marie Antoinette & Children

Al Bourassa

Tulua, Colombia

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Taken March 14/09, south of Paris, France at the Château de Versailles, which has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage List for 30 years, and is one of the most beautiful achievements of 18th-century French art.

Maria Antonia of Austria was born on 2 November 1755 at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna. She was the youngest daughter of Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, and Maria Theresa, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia and ruler of the Habsburg dominions.
The events leading to her eventual betrothal to the Dauphin of France began in 1765, when her father, Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, died of a stroke in August, leaving Maria Theresa to co-rule with her elder son and heir, the Emperor Joseph II.8 By that time, marriage arrangements for several of Maria Antonia’s sisters had begun, with the Archduchess Maria Josepha betrothed to King Ferdinand of Naples, and Don Ferdinand of Parma tentatively set to marry one of the remaining eligible archduchesses. The purpose of these marriages was to cement the various complex alliances that Maria Theresa had entered into in the 1750s due to the Seven Years’ War, which included Parma, Naples, Russia, and more importantly Austria’s traditional enemy, France.9 Without the Seven Years’ War to “unite” the two countries briefly, the marriage of Maria Antonia and the Dauphin Louis-Auguste might not have occurred.
In 1767, a smallpox outbreak hit the family. This ultimately left twelve-year-old Madame Antoine as the only potential bride left in the family for the fourteen-year-old Louis Auguste, who was also her second cousin once removed.
The ceremonial wedding of the Dauphin and Dauphine took place on 16 May 1770, in the Palace of Versailles, after which was the ritual bedding. It was assumed by custom that consummation of the marriage would take place on the wedding night. However, this did not occur, and the lack of consummation plagued the reputation of both Louis-Auguste and Marie Antoinette for seven years to come.
Marie Antoinette’s situation became more precarious when, on 6 August 1775, her sister-in-law, the comtesse d’Artois, gave birth to a son, the duc d’Angoulême (who later became the presumptive heir to the French throne when his father, the comte d’Artois, became King Charles X of France in 1824). This resulted in release of a plethora of graphic satirical pamphlets, which mainly centered on the king’s impotence and the queen’s searching for sexual relief elsewhere, with men and women alike. Among her rumored lovers were her close friend, the princesse de Lamballe, and her handsome brother-in-law, the comte d’Artois, with whom the queen had a good rapport.
This caused the queen to plunge further into the costly diversions of buying her dresses from Rose Bertin and gambling, simply to enjoy herself. On one famed occasion, she played for three days straight with players from Paris, straight up until her 21st birthday. She also began to attract various male admirers whom she accepted into her inner circles.
She was given free rein to renovate the Petit Trianon, a small château on the grounds of Versailles, which was given to her as a gift by Louis XVI on 15 August 1774; she concentrated mainly on horticulture, redesigning in the English mode the garden. Although the Petit Trianon had been built for Louis XV’s mistress, Madame de Pompadour, it became associated with Marie Antoinette’s perceived extravagance.
In the midst of preparations for sending help to France, and in the atmosphere of the first wave of libelles, Holy Roman Emperor Joseph came to call on his sister and brother-in-law on 18 April 1777, the subsequent six-week visit in Versailles a part of the attempt to figure out why their marriage had not been consummated.
It was due to Joseph’s intervention that, on 30 August 1777, the marriage was officially consummated. Eight months later, in April, it was suspected that the queen was finally pregnant with her first child. This was confirmed on 16 May 1778.
Marie Antoinette’s daughter, Marie-Thérèse Charlotte, given the honorific title at birth of Madame Royale, was finally born at Versailles, after a particularly difficult labour, on 19 December 1778, following an ordeal where the queen literally collapsed from suffocation and hemorrhaging. The queen’s bedroom was packed with courtiers watching the birth, and the doctor aiding her supposedly caused the excessive bleeding by accident. The windows had to be torn out to revive her. As a result of this harrowing experience, the queen and the king banned most courtiers from entering her bedchamber for subsequent labours.
The baby’s paternity was contested in the libelles but not by the king himself, who was close to his daughter.
On 22 October 1781, the queen gave birth to Louis Joseph Xavier François, who bore the title Dauphin of France, as was customary for the eldest son of the King of France. The reaction to the birth of an heir was best summed up by the words of Louis XVI himself, as he wrote them down in his hunting journal: “Madame, you have fulfilled our wishes and those of France, you are the mother of Dauphin”.
In 1784, it was widely thought that the sickly Dauphin would not live to be an adult. As a consequence, it was rumored that the king and queen were attempting to have another child.
On 27 March 1785, Marie Antoinette gave birth to a second son, Louis Charles, who was created the duc de Normandie. Noticeably stronger than the sickly Dauphin, the new baby was affectionately nicknamed by the queen, chou d’amour. This naturally led to suspicions of illegitimacy once more.
A second daughter, Sophie Hélène Béatrice de France, was born on 9 July 1786 and died on 19 June 1787.
The queen attempted to fight back with her own propaganda that portrayed her as a caring mother, most notably with the portrait of her and her children done by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun, which premiered at the Royal Académie Salon de Paris in August 1787. This attack strategy was eventually dropped, however, because of the death of the queen’s youngest child, Sophie.
She was declared guilty of treason in the early morning of 16 October, 1793 after two days of proceedings.
On the same day, her hair was cut off and she was driven through Paris in an open cart, wearing a simple white dress. At 12:15 pm, two and a half weeks before her thirty-eighth birthday, she was executed at the Place de la Révolution (present-day Place de la Concorde). Her last words were, “Pardon me Sir, I meant not to do it”, to Sanson the executioner, whose foot she had accidentally stepped on before she was executed by guillotine. Her body was thrown into an unmarked grave in the Madeleine cemetery, rue d’Anjou, (which was closed the following year).
Her sister-in-law Élisabeth was executed in 1794 and her son died in prison in 1795. Her daughter returned to Austria in a prisoner exchange, married and died childless in 1851.
Both her body and that of Louis XVI were exhumed on 18 January 1815, during the Bourbon Restoration, when the comte de Provence had become King Louis XVIII. Christian burial of the royal remains took place three days later, on 21 January, in the necropolis of French Kings at the Basilica of St Denis.

This artwork is derived from a photograph taken during a tour of Western Europe.
I do hope you enjoy my work.
Comments are graciously accepted.
Favoring is greatly appreciated and will garner a response.
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